Fight for principles: A South Africa-born doctor's perspective on the U.S.

During the 1980s, I compared my beloved South Africa’s situation in Africa to that of the U.S. in its global position (with about 5% of the world population). But I didn't know much about the latter.

Parameters such as demographic size, population diversity, infrastructure, economy, education, and health care services, etc., have made the Republic of SA (to this day) the “mini-America” of Africa.

Of course, the 1980s was the time of utmost “white privilege” in SA, over and above Apartheid attempts to establish a multi-state solution for its profoundly serious social and political problems.

Media coverage then (in newspaper clippings as I tabulated them) described SA’s issues in disjointed African proportions: 70% of printed news focused on SA’s 36 million inhabitants (5% of Africa) and had very little or nothing to say about the circumstances of the other 630 million lives of people living in Africa north of the Limpopo River, all the way up to the Mediterranean Sea. Dictator Moammar Gadhafi of Libya was then almost regarded as a progressive mentor of leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa.

I wrote to the main Chicago Tribune reporter for “Africa” at the time, and the journalist wrote me back saying “maybe only his mother knew more about his reporting” than me but it was “editorial policy” to focus on SA in such a manner. The WSJ did print one of my letters to the editor, in 1985 or so, surprisingly titled “Not all of SA’s problems caused by Apartheid.”

Lately, serious South African issues, 30 years post-Apartheid, get little mainstream media attention and if any do, most problems are still blamed on Apartheid!

Nevertheless, post-colonial Africa, be it Belgian, French, English, or Portuguese, is in deep doo-doo while Africa’s population has more than doubled. You research by measuring the parameters.

During the 1990s I became a U.S. citizen after being recruited as a medical professional in critical care medicine with computer expertise, discovering that with my born and bred “white privilege” conservative background I was more “American” before I really knew much about the U.S. Constitution and, about “exceptionalism.” Pardon my demonstration of such a supposedly racist view.

In Chicago, I got folks' attention by calling myself of “African origin” when only descendants of slaves, who arrived in America long after my forebears did in Southern Africa, could do so.

I love the person-centered U.S. Constitution with passion, in contrast to the new SA Constitution, with socialistic “society” bias.

However, I also love my country of birth and appreciate the eight or nine generations before me who gave their best.

My father was born in 1918 and was a contemporary of Dr. Christiaan Barnard (b. 1922, performed first human cardiac transplant 1967). He grew up in rural Karoo ‘sheep farming’ towns but graduated from different medical schools.

Earlier Afrikaans-speaking generations of mine were mostly farmers (“Boers”).

My for-family (sic) protested, trekked away from, and fought Dutch and British imperialism politics and governance from the late 1600s, pre-U.S. Declaration of Independence 1776 America, pre-French Revolution 1789, and through the 1800s (the U.S. Civil War 1861-1865), with an Afrikaner nationalistic reformed (religious) conservative passion, making the best of caring for themselves.

In the new post-Apartheid SA, fending for yourself and not expecting the government to do it for you, as well as not plundering, are Boer values and individual attributes not appreciated much. (Thus, my inbred “American sentiments” before my geographic relocation).

My grandparents survived the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 when the British attempted to force Afrikaners on how to better rule and dig (for diamonds & gold). In the process, thousands of women and children died in the concentration camps, created in (yet) a “slash-and-burn” fight for control of what was to become South Africa. Not funny how the British kept on doing what England could not accomplish in America, pre-1776-1789.

My instinctive South African African-perspective sense during the 1980s and 1990s was that the U.S.’s global relationships could deteriorate and serious external threats could develop so the U.S. had to be ready for the challenges. Today, little did I know, the biggest threats to my now-beloved U.S. are “internal.” The speculative 1980s statements I made about future “double trouble” for the U.S. have come to haunt me.

To paraphrase a recent AT article: No nation has done better at trying to cultivate and safeguard the “unalienable” freedoms of every person over time and through hardship. That alone is has made the U.S. exceptional.

However, “woke,” anti-“white privilege” and “racism” politics, and associated actions or inaction (problems of commission and omission) now seriously endanger the U.S.’s stability, and things may well get worse before they get better. Who could have imagined?

May the Lord shine His light upon us and help us all … to “intellectually cultivate, safeguard and fight for principles” which made America great and, the world a better place!

Image: Library of Congress, via Picryl / public domain

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